Oklahoma football: DaShaun White the next Sooner star at linebacker

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 23: Linebacker DaShaun White #23 of the Oklahoma Sooners hits quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs as he releases an errant pass in the second quarter on November 23, 2019 at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. OU held on to win 28-24. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 23: Linebacker DaShaun White #23 of the Oklahoma Sooners hits quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs as he releases an errant pass in the second quarter on November 23, 2019 at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. OU held on to win 28-24. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /
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Over the years, Oklahoma football has had outstanding performance at the linebacker position.

Who can forget the likes of Rod Shoate, OU’s only three-time All-American, Brian Bosworth, Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman. And of more recent note, Curtis Loftin, Eric Striker and “Obo” Okoronkwo.

The Sooners are losing a darn good one from last season in Kenneth Murray, who was a first-round selection of the Los Angeles Chargers and the 23rd player selected overall in this year’s NFL Draft. Murray was a captain and the vocal leader of the Oklahoma defense, which made big strides of improvement in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s first season in that role.

Murray played middle linebacker, or what they call the “Mike” linebacker in today’s football vernacular. That is a key position in any defense, and the loss of Murray poses some big shoes to fill.

As both Grinch and head coach Lincoln Riley would say, it’s next man up. And that appears to be junior DaShaun White, who is expected to slide over from the weakside linebacker position.

Listed at 6-feet, 223 pounds, White played in all 14 games for the Sooners a year ago and was the fourth leading tackler on the team with 52 tackles. White also was credited with 3.5 tackles of loss and one sack.

In evaluating White’s prospects for the next level, Pro Football Focus says that two things to look for in linebacker prospects are coverage ability and athleticism and that White checks those boxes nicely. PFN also lauds White for his agility in getting around blocks and as a good gap penetrator.

He is clearly going to get more playing time this season, and if the North Richmond Hills, Texas native is able to demonstrate those strengths and play to his full capability, there are some NFL draft experts who are saying White could be a top-10 linebacker draft pick next spring.

That’s all still a ways down the road, though. I can assure you that the only thing White is thinking about right now is what’s ahead this fall and living up to the high expectations the Oklahoma coaches have of him.

Sooner fans will miss Kenneth Murray, as they do all great Sooner players, but there is every reason to believe that DaShaun White — jersey No. 23 if you’re keeping score at home — will be the next great Oklahoma linebacker.